I see a lot of corporate documents every week, and the writing contained therein could keep me supplied with blog topics for the next year (assuming the chronic eye rolling doesn’t do me in first). Inflated language, random capitalization, buffer verbs, redundancy, awkward syntax, dangling modifiers, and parallel-construction problems abound, and each of those deserves a separate post.
Today I shall discuss a truly cringe-inducing trend: Using nouns as verbs and adjectives. For example, let’s look at the word “partner.” We can all agree it’s a noun that refers to someone who takes an equal share of responsibility with someone else in an effort to accomplish a shared goal. Not all partners have the same significance in one’s life, but they are always nouns.
In college, you may have had a temporary partner in your “Japanese Superhero TV Shows Masquerading as American Productions 101” course. She created the Power Rangers charts and diagrams, while you researched and presented the various iterations (your thesis being that Dino Thunder was the best). Later, you might have a life partner who shares your bank account and helps you screw up the children you are raising together.
It has lately become acceptable to use “partner” as a verb, such as, “Jacob Marley partnered with Scrooge to form Bain Capital.” I’m not a big fan of this usage, but it comes in handy when I’m writing someone’s bio and already used “collaborated” and “worked with.”
It’s the adjective version that gets my cringe machine firing. “Our company seeks a partnering manager who is willing to work alongside and support the communications team in producing awful writing.”
That’s bad, but it’s nothing compared to this atrocity: Using “architect” as a verb.
That’s what I said. Architect is now being used as a verb in place of “design and implement.” For example, “The successful candidate will be called upon to architect a more efficient and streamlined production process.”
If you aren’t cringing by now, we can’t be friends.
The good news is that my job permits me to change these beastly little nuisances. Bless my employer for entrusting me to make those decisions many hundreds of times a day.
Ah, but the world always finds a new way to needle you, doesn’t it? It is no longer politically correct to use the adjective “female” when describing a human being. We must now use the word “woman” in its place, though the rules of English unequivocally state that the latter term is a noun.
“There are not enough women directors in Hollywood.”
“Car-repair customers are more trusting of a woman mechanic.”
“We have not yet had a woman president, though we’ve had plenty of men presidents.”
Am I to understand that the biological descriptors use to differentiate between humans with two X chromosomes and humans with an X and a Y chromosome are degrading and oppressive? So much so that we mangle the language and wedge nouns in the place of adjectives?
Let’s take it to the extreme and see what we get:
“All embryos are inherently woman, but the release of testosterone at a certain stages induces the formation of man genitalia in some fetuses.”
“The woman alligator cares for her hatchlings while the man alligator has moved on to search for another mate.”
“To install your fiber optic cable, insert than man end into the corresponding woman receptacle on your surround-sound amplifier.”
How about it, folks? Am I an insensitive clod for caring more about grammar than about making sure crybabies don’t get offended by phantom insults?
Hmmm. I suppose that question wasn’t framed with the utmost neutrality, was it? Perhaps I’m just hopelessly operating from a male perspective. Er, a man perspective.